On June 1, the Crusaders won their first state championship since 2013 by defeating defending champion Rockwood Summit 2-1 in a Class 3 championship game at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City.
It was a game where each team scored one in regulation, and then went through two 15-minute overtime periods without a goal. Then, St. Dominic prevailed 7-6 in the penalty kick tiebreaker to win the Class 3 title.
“We went into the seventh shot [of penalty kicks] and after five [shots] it becomes goal-to-goal, and Ally Palmentier made a great save to end it after senior Rachel Livingston put away her penalty kick. With Ally making the stop, we were the champions,” St. Dominic coach Greg Keller said. “It was a great championship game.”
A few minutes into the first half, Summit took the lead on a goal from Rylie Morris.
The Crusaders got the equalizer just a minute into the second half off a goal from freshman forward Jess Larson off a corner kick from senior defender Maddy Stewart.
Palmatier made three saves, including the big final on in the PK round, to secure the championship.
Winning the state championship as a freshman was something that Larson said fulfilled a lifelong dream.
“Ever since I was little I’ve dreamed of winning a state title, and that was just one the biggest things I’ve had that was on the list of achievements [for me] and to do,” Larson said. “That, as a freshman, was just a great feeling.”
A day earlier on May 31, the Crusaders, knocked off Kearney 3-2 in the semifinal round game.
St. Dominic overcame a 2-0 halftime deficit against the Bulldogs with a second-half three-goal surge. Goals from freshman Grace Bindbuetel, Avery Malloy and Larson propelled the Crusaders into the championship game.
Bindbeutel and Larson were familiar fixtures in the box score for the Crusaders thanks to a mutual knack for scoring timely goals.
The dynamic freshman duo, which has played soccer together and been friends since grade school at Immaculate Conception in Dardenne Prairie, formed an unbeatable combo that scored 29 and 28 goals respectively.
“I think that since we’ve always done everything together and we’ve always played soccer together and everything we’ve done growing up together has just helped us become closer on and off the field,” Bindbuetel said.
“I think, just because we’ve played soccer together for a while in [soccer] club and we’ve been good friends of the field as well,” Larson said. “I just think that reflects on to our play.”
After winning four of five games to start the season, the Crusaders finished the season with a 26-3-1 record. The team began to look like a championship squad at the end of March when a 3-0 win over Alton kickstarted a 14-game winning streak that ran over 24 days.
Koeller praised senior players Mackenzie Ballard, Livingston Maddie Schnuur, Caroline Staebell, Natalie Zoellner and Stewart with creating a strong cohesion in the club early in the season.
“I have to credit our seniors because from the very beginning way back to July during our summer soccer camp, they saw the potential of the underclassmen,” Koeller said. “They opened themselves up to the underclassmen, such as Jess and Grace, and made them feel very comfortable with what we were doing and feel like they were part of the team.”
The championship was the first one for the Crusaders in six seasons, and the immediate future for the program is already looking good with 22 players set to return next season.
“Every year the dynamics change, but we definitely feel good about the group that’s coming back, so we’re very excited about what could happen,” Koeller said.